14 July 2020 Rockport, Maine, USA 

Food-caching Corvids

Thursday, November 14th, 2019
Woodhouse’s Scrub-jay, East Millcreek, Salt Lake City, Utah, 14 November 2019.
Woodhouse’s Scrub-jay (on the back deck).

One thing I’ve noticed out here in the Mountain West is that the local corvids have a serious urge to cache morsels of food. I refer specifically to Black-billed Magpies and Woodhouse’s Scrub-jays. More than once I’ve watched a magpie bury an acorns in my front yard, then come back fifteen minutes later and dig it up again. And I’ve seen scrub-jays carrying peanuts (no doubt supplied by humans) all over the place, looking for the ideal place to stow them for later.

The jays in particular seem most driven to cache. They’re nearly always carrying a nut or seed in their bills—at least in my observations so far. I’ve observed them stuff a peanut in a dark recess in a matt of thick vines on a fence. I’ve watched as they poke some tiny prize in a crack in the boards of my deck. Then they’ll pluck up little fallen leaf and appear to drop it above the crack, as if to hide their secret cache.

I never tire of it—watching these hard-won survival devices of birds. Ah, the wonders of evolution.

Grandeur Peak Area List
Beginning at 10:15 a.m., I hiked a few hundred feet up the mountain.

1. Woodhouse’s Scrub-jay*
2. Song Sparrow* (v)
3. House Finch*
4. Black-capped Chickadee**
5. Dark-eyed Junco
6. Downy Woodpecker
7. Northern Flicker** (v)
8. Black-billed Magpie
9. Lesser Goldfinch**

10. Eurasian Collared Dove

v = Voice only
*Also elsewhere
**Voice only elsewhere

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Bird Report is an intermittent record of what's outside my window in Rockport, Maine, USA (44°08'N latitude, 69°06'W longitude), and vicinity. —Brian Willson

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